In October Nick Cook completed the Marathon Des Sables read about his amazing journey:
In October 2021 I completed the 35th Marathon de Sables known as the toughest foot race on Earth. This challenge was on my list of life ambitions and so I took up the opportunity when sponsorship was provided by Paul Breaks to help raise funds for Ynot Aspire.
In March 2020 when I signed up for the marathon I started to make preparation for the race:
Researching maps, studying weather patterns, reading about previous competitors experiences and finding out about the food and kit I needed but in truth I did not fully know what I had actually signed up for and how the experience would affect me.
Previous competitors talked about the race being a spiritual experience and I thought that this was a bit on the deep side. Having completed the race I can say that certainly for myself it give me opportunity to clear my mind.
I used to have a socially active sports background but in recent years I found myself becoming more and more of a recluse. I took part in fewer races and started to become less sociable and more anxious. I was spending increasing amounts of time with my own thoughts and not talking, this led to more anxiety which was made worse when my Mum passed away unexpectedly in September 2020.
So did the marathon come at the right time for me? Having now recovered from this amazing challenge I can say that I do think that it did.
The Marathon has 5 stages:
The first stage of the marathon was actually the worst day for me, just a few miles in my body began to hurt and I started to question “what am I even doing here” and this thought stayed with me all the way to the finish line that day.
Stage two of the marathon turned out to be both my best and worst racing experience all in one. Best because of the beauty of the desert and the wonder that it is, the worst because of the sheer challenge of running through this terrain which felt like travelling through the gates of hell. The reality of the challenge I was undertaking hit home.
As a runner I have no pedigree, had no coaching, no finesse and no technique but what I do have is stubbornness and an ability to adapt to the terrain. These characteristics helped me conquer the mountain like sand dunes in the extreme temperatures. This was a difficult day for competitors with many suffering exhaustion, heat stroke, stories of cardiac arrests and the worst news of all… a death. This tragic event triggered the thoughts “Is it worth it?” and “Why am I actually here?” but then I started to focus and think more clearly through the next and longest stage of the marathon of what an achievement it would be complete this incredible challenge.
In the 50 degrees heat I switched between thinking I can do this and wobbly moments when I thought I could not but then I began to think about how I have come through the worst and darkest times of my life and remembering that there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel.
I continued to put one foot in front of another until I got to the finish line having completed the 156 mile journey through the Moroccan desert.
The Marathon turned out to be more than just the race.
I met so many people from different walks of life and listened to their background stories and experiences in life. I was able to have a laugh and smile and it took me back to the time when I first started running and sharing experiences with friends and team mates.
The race had drawn me out of the thoughts of my own mind and I was enjoying the camaraderie I got from my tent mates as well as the encouragement we all gave each other in reaching the shared goal of crossing the finish line. Thanks to my wife and family for supporting me always.